Monday, May 21, 2012

The Inclusive Classroom

Most everybody agrees with the idea of inclusion, but not everyone agrees on what inclusion looks like or how it’s implemented.  Research bears this out: most teachers believe inclusion is a good thing for students with disabilities; AND most teachers feel they lack the skills, support, or materials to make inclusion work in their classroom.
Many of us point to what we cannot change: staffing levels, equipment availability, improved facilities (“if only we had more fill in the blank”).  So we’re forced to think creatively in order to get kids with disabilities actively involved in the learning.  That likely means we need to change things up.  Universal Design for Learning (UDL) constructs suggest that we can change three things: (1) how we turn students on to the learning (engagement and motivation); (2) how we present the information (instruction); and (3) how students show what they know (expression).
But that’s not always easy.  Some of us thrive in a classroom of “controlled chaos” where students are participating in a variety of activities simultaneously.  Others prefer what appears to be a more structured approach.  If we are to include children with disabilities in our classroom and we are expecting them to do more than just be a physical presence, we need to stretch our imaginations and our boundaries. And maybe we need to be willing to take risks, fail, and try again.

Developing a truly inclusive classroom is hard work.  But others have done it successfully and we can too.  There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel when we have our collective expertise and creativity to rely on and to share.  PLC Consultants’ Module 5: The Inclusive Classroom provides the vehicle for ongoing, meaningful, and productive collaboration in a secure environment where sharing successes AND failures are an important part of the learning process.  Take a look.

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